- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The powerbrokers in Congress have decided to take the summer off from the debate about how to secure America’s borders and to deal with the millions of people in the United States illegally. The only results from their vacation will be a still-unsolved problem, several thousand more illegals sneaking across the border this summer and the continued frustration of a public that does not find the issue so complicated.

It is apparent the Senate and House have reached an impasse — one House demanding border security only, the other insistent on an amnesty they call “earned legalization.” Only in Washington could it be thought the way to earn legalization is to break the law, and only there do they think it possible to close thousands of miles of border without addressing why people want to sneak across.

Some House members seem content to go home for the year and face voters with no better solution than criticizing the out-of-touch Senate. But whatever they say about the “differences” between the two Houses on this issue, neither will solve the problem by passing nothing. Recent polls make it clear the vast majority of Americans believe it is not only possible, but essential, to control the borders, deny amnesty to lawbreakers, and provide a legal means for temporary workers to come to the U.S. safely.

Much discussion is now focused on our Krieble Foundation proposal to create a temporary work program administered by the private sector that will provide background checks on all workers and link specific workers to specific jobs. The border could thus be controlled much easier and cheaper because most people now attempting to sneak across would not have to do so. They would be welcome on a temporary basis because we’ll know who they are, where they work, where they live, and when they’re going home.

Absolute border security is possible with existing technology, and it is possible to supply the work force our economy needs, without the massive increases in federal bureaucracy or tax money so many in Washington always think of as the first answer to everything.

None of this should have anything to do with immigration. Temporary workers, here to make money so they can build a better life back home, are not immigrants. Allowing them to jump that line just because they’re working here for a while is contrary to our founding principles. We are a nation of laws, and anyone can become an American. All people are created equal here, and we do not give special treatment to groups over individuals.

But becoming a citizen is a difficult process on purpose because it requires knowing what an American citizen is. It means learning our system, history, culture and language. Most of all, it means learning why America is special, and that cannot be accomplished in a couple of days. Filling out a form won’t do it, and having a baby in the U.S. should not make them citizens. America is more than a place. It’s an ideal, and confusing those issues with the current debate on border security doesn’t solve anything.

These issues are complex and controversial, but one thing is clear to most Americans watching the charade on the Potomac — something must be done. They know Congress adjourning for the year without a solution only postpones the problem. It is not a viable option, and members who think otherwise may pay a serious price if they must face voters in November with nothing more to say than, “The other side is wrong.” There are much better choices.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, has introduced legislation that would provide a comprehensive solution to these issues without any form of amnesty. It would actually combine the House-passed border security and employer enforcement measures with a temporary work program based on our private-sector plan. It would require people who broke our laws to go home and apply legally, and give them strong incentives to do so. It would effectively dry up the illegal labor market, make sure all the workers in this country are legally registered, working productive jobs and paying taxes.

This legislation would accomplish these things without any new federal bureaucracy, and without any new immigrants. It is not a compromise between two failed approaches, but a third choice — a way to end the rhetoric and get the problem solved. It deserves a careful look as a way to break the deadlock and get something through Congress this year.

The public wants a solution, not more election-year slogans.

Helen Krieble is president and chief executive officer of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.

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